Letters to the Editor, March 10, 2013
Place accent on corporate social values
The global investing public is increasingly paying attention to the corporate social responsibilities of listed enterprises. Profitability aside, corporate performance in environmental protection, social contribution and human capital development are being factored into people's investment decisions.
To keep in line with the international trend, the Hong Kong Stock Exchange is advocating the concept of integrated reporting, which encourages companies to disclose their accomplishments in four areas: social, environmental, intellectual property, and human capital development.
Normally, the reporting quality of a company reflects the sophistication of its performance monitoring system and the competency of top management, which in turn affects the sustainability of business development. Companies which take the lead in adopting integrated reporting should enjoy a premium in valuation.
However, this rationale might not apply to the Hong Kong stock market, which is dominated by participants with a short investment horizon. Using our two electricity giants as an example, they adopt similar business expansion strategies and dividend policies; but the stock price performance of CLP is inferior to that of its counterpart, Hongkong Electric, despite it having won many prestigious corporate governance and disclosure awards.
Although difference in stock price performance may be caused by various factors, it appears that local investors, in the process of formulating their investment strategies, have placed a low priority on corporate transparency.
Without market motivation, it takes time for enterprises to recognise integrated reporting as a chance to demonstrate business value, rather than as a mere burden of compliance cost. The Securities and Futures Commission should step up its efforts in investor education in order to foster this change.
Stanley Ip, Tseung Kwan O
Join forces to shine light on way forward
I refer to the letter by Allan Dyer ("'Green' lighting fears just a Luddite attack", March 3).
While the energy-saving characteristics of compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) are to be welcomed they are not an environmentally friendly solution because of their contaminating contents, especially on disposal. Contradictory actions by the UN, which has appeared at different times to be both for and against CFLs, are not unusual. That is one reason why views publicly expressed in letters like these are important.
Anything that can be done to reduce further contamination of our air, sea or soil, and thus to contain, for example, the negative affects of mercury on mental health, has to be welcomed.
It's not a case of returning to incandescent lamps, but nor should we seek their replacement with something that does not solve the problem. That is how manufacturers keep cashing in, which is their main aim.
There is enough collective wisdom now about "green" lighting solutions to find one that works, and we all have a role in helping bring this about.
The way is to join forces, presenting competing views but seeking the moral high ground on environmental and social responsibility, to force manufacturers and our fellow consumers to do the right thing.
Tony Henderson, chairman, Humanist Association of Hong Kong
Libraries open later will aid learning
The rising demand for quality multi-functional regional library facilities in fast growing districts like Tin Shui Wai and Tung Chung has provided an opportunity for the government to improve public amenities originally conceived and planned long ago.
The newly-established Ping Shan Tin Shui Wai Leisure and Cultural Building and the multi-storey regional library there certainly satisfy public demand for accessibility, since it is easy to reach from Tin Shui Wai's West Rail MTR station. It is also the second largest library in Hong Kong.
Although it targets users from throughout the district, and seeks to alleviate pressure on smaller libraries, the opening hours for such a modern facility are below expectations. I paid a visit and saw how many people had rushed there soon after it opened recently to borrow books and advance their knowledge.
Given the demand I felt it was unreasonably early to close the library at 8pm. By so restricting public use outside of office hours our government is inadvertently discourages citizens' self improvement and enlightenment. Knowledge is the key to success.
As leaders of a world-class international hub, I ask that the government keeps our district libraries open until 10pm so that more citizens will be able to use them, for the benefit of society as a whole.
Gravis Cheng, Yuen Long
Remove dollar peg and rein in home prices
Our government is yet again having to deal with Hong Kong's skyrocketing property prices. It has become a routine over the past few decades.
Despite the acrobatics by our bureaucrats to curtail ever rising prices, there seems to be no effective measure to bring any meaningful and sustainable, healthy correction in prices of flats in our city.
Put simply, if a young, professional working couple cannot afford to buy their own flat, property prices are too high. Hong Kong has enjoyed the benefit of our currency's peg to the US dollar for the most part, but if we really want to deal effectively with out-of-control property prices, now would be a good time to consider doing away with the peg.
Hong Kong's economy couldn't be further from the problems faced by the US.
Here we enjoy budget surpluses that can't be remotely anticipated by our finance ministry, while the US has unsustainable deficits. Yet the peg forces us to retain a very low interest rate environment set up by the US Federal Reserve in its struggle to reinvigorate the American housing market. This, in turn, in Hong Kong forces the flow of funds into our property market in search of reasonable returns.
The most effective tool any government has at its disposal to deal with unreasonably high property prices is regulating interest rates. Just take a cursory look at Australia, which for some years now has managed to keep modest property price rises, by increasing interest rates when it felt necessary.
Hong Kong ought to take the step to regain control of its economy by cutting the peg out of the equation.
There has not been a more obvious and compelling reason to do this than now that property prices are some 35 per cent above where they were in 1997.
Marian Schneps, Wan Chai
Smokers pose grave threat to advancement
I am writing in response to the report ("Smoking on the increase in Shanghai's 'Disaster Zones'", March 4).
For the sake of public health and the growing economy, the central government must step up its efforts to lower the rising number of smokers.
It should declare parks and all indoor public areas smoke-free zones.
As parks are supposed to be places where people can enjoy fresh air, and indoor areas have poorer ventilation, cigarette smoke should stay away from these places as far as it can. That is why a wider scheme is badly needed.
The central government should take the initiative in the mainland's battle against cigarette smoking. To convince business owners and the public to take part in the campaign, it is vitally important for the government to take the lead by forbidding smoking in governmental facilities such as offices.
Stricter legislation and enforcement are needed.
Although education has been in place for a long time, due to a lack of motivation and public awareness, the mainland's campaign against smoking barely merits a passing nod.
It appears that we can only make a difference through enforcement if encouragement doesn't work. The government should increase penalties by raising fines and even imprisoning repeat offenders.
Having good public health is key to the success of a society. In order, as well, to boost the economy, the central government must do whatever it takes to lower the number of smokers.
Alex Law, Tsuen Wan
Responsibility, values on the line for young
Smartphones are becoming increasingly important in our society.
Individuals use them daily, sometimes relying on them to communicate with other people rather than interacting with them face to face.
There is no denying that these devices bring a lot of benefits and certainly make life easier.
However, some teenagers have a distorted view of the importance of a smartphone. They feel they must buy one, even if they cannot afford it.
There was even the extreme case of a young person selling a kidney on the mainland to have enough money to purchase an iPhone and an iPad.
There is no point railing against the devices. However, it is important to raise young people's awareness, through education, so they do not become addicted to these mobiles.
There is a need for these young people to be taught to understand the importance of social responsibility and to have the right value system.
Chloe Lau, Tsing Yi